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Will Ferrell was afraid 'Elf' would end his career

It's hard to imagine now, but the actor thought the classic Christmas movie could've been his undoing.
/ Source: TODAY

The 2003 Christmas comedy "Elf" has become a beloved holiday classic, but not everyone was sure the movie would be a hit — including its star Will Ferrell.

During his Thursday visit to "The Late Late Show with James Corden," the 51-year-old funnyman admitted "there were moments" on set when he thought "Elf" might ruin his career.

In "Elf," Ferrell plays a human named Buddy who was raised among Santa's elves in the North Pole. As an adult, he longs to meet his real dad, so he travels to New York City wearing full elf regalia. There, sweetly naive Buddy teaches cynical city slickers all about Christmas cheer.

"The first two weeks of shooting were kind of all the exteriors in New York. So, still kind of discovering what this movie's gonna be and running around New York City in yellow tights," the 6-foot-3-inch actor recalled. "People recognizing me from 'Saturday Night Live'going, 'You OK? What's going on?'"

Will Ferrell, right, as Buddy in the 2003 holiday classic "Elf."Alamy

The comedian remembered thinking to himself, "This is either going to be a home run or people are going to go, 'Whatever happened to you? Why did you do that one about the elf?'"

Of course, "Elf" was a box-office smash and, to this day, it's must-watch holiday viewing. '"It was just obviously one of those where the stars aligned and 15 years later, it's crazy," Ferrell said of the movie's enduring charm.

Though the film's success largely belongs to Ferrell, whose exuberant Buddy charms even the most hardened urbanites, at least one co-star had serious doubts about his performance.

At the movie's premiere, James Caan, who played Buddy's father, confessed to Ferrell that he thought he'd bombed. "He's like, 'Hey, I gotta tell you something. Every day on set I thought you were way too over the top, but now I see what you were doing. Great job,'" Ferrell recalled, laughing.

"I just love the thought that there we were, working every day, and he's going back to his hotel room going, 'Geez, get me out of this one.' That was fun," he added.